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I had a lengthy conversation yesterday with county Counsel John Sansone about why he advised county officials not to make public the results of an investigation into allegations about a county-run program that provides wheelchairs and other medical devices to children with disabilities.
Nick Macchione, director of the county’s Health and Human Services Agency, told me late last year that he made the decision not to release the document based on legal advice from Sansone’s office.
I wanted to know, specifically, what that advice was — why the county’s lawyers didn’t want the document to be released. I wanted to know what legal reasoning there was for keeping the document secret, and why those reasons outweighed the public’s right to know whether there were improprieties being committed at a program it funds.
I’ve been calling Sansone for two weeks. Today he finally called back.
But Sansone refused to answer any questions. He instead insisted that he has already described to me, in detail, why he advised officials at the county to keep the document secret.
Several weeks ago, Sansone skirted around this issue with me, and offered some vague answers to my questions. He said the county could be subject to lawsuits if it released the document, and that the county has never released confidential attorney-client communications before and doesn’t plan to do so now.
But I wanted to drill deeper into those answers with him: I wanted to ask why the county would be subject to lawsuits if, as county officials have claimed, the allegations didn’t amount to much? And I wanted to ask what, specifically are the public benefits of keeping the document secret?
Sansone’s answers: I’ve already told you. He hasn’t.
Rather than quickly explaining why he advised the county to keep the document secret, Sansone instead spent more than 10 minutes telling me, over and over again, that he had already answered my questions.
OK, I said. Assuming I had forgotten that he’d already told me, assuming I had neglected to write down his reasoning in my notes, could he do me and the public a favor and quickly repeat his reasoning so that I could share it with my readers?
No, he said.